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Online Oscars February 27, 2005

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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In theory, oscar.com and partner ABC.com did the best job of creating a site that supported the Oscars broadcast in real time, via ABC’s Enhanced TV twin-screen simulcast and oscar.com’s live updates. That’s “in theory” because my Mac – whether running Safari or Firefox – couldn’t participate. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

I was unpleasantly surprised by the lack of Oscar-picking support. Isn’t that the best thing you can do with a site? Yahoo at least allowed viewers to sign up for a Pick ‘Em game, though results were not tabulated in real-time, but rather an hour after the presentation. MSN and AOL, not to mention ABC, missed big time on this one. I had to make my own spreadsheet for the Card family pool. In contrast, Oscar fashion was well covered by all.

Among the big three, Yahoo wins by default for this. It had solid clips support and by far the richest nominees list, with links to bios and detail on each film. Yahoo had Diet Pepsi sponsorship throughout the site, and promoted an Entertainment Tonight section.

MSN had a slick site sponsored by Hyundai, but made some dumb decisions. While it had polls upfront, it also relied way too much on lame MSN employee-written “exclusives.” It also had a ridiculously complicated poker game. It spent 700+ words explaining why poker is a better metaphor for Oscar picks than horse racing handicaps. Absurd.

AOL had an adequate site, though no sponsorship! It mostly promoted content from People, Entertainment Weekly, and InStyle, and hosted the whole under the Moviefone brand. Sensible, perhaps, and a good trivia quiz came from the EW brand (Yahoo had one too), but where was the chance to predict the winners?

Finally, while Tom Hanks beat out Roberto Benigni and Halle Berry in the oscar.com poll, my own favorite acceptance speech was Brando’s, of course. It wasn’t even on the list you could pick from. But I do like Sidney Lumet, and am very pleased he got the geezer award.

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She May Be Hilary Duff, But She Still Brushes Her Teeth February 25, 2005

Posted by David Card in Digital Home & Personal Tech.
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The Journal reports that Hasbro is in negotiations with Will Smith and Hilary Duff to license songs for a musical toothbrush that uses your head and jaw for acoustics.

Andre Recke, Ms. Duff’s music manager, was initially skeptical but now says it is “likely” his 17-year-old client will strike a deal. “When Hasbro came to me, my reaction was ‘Yeah, Yeah, so it’s just a toothbrush,’ ” Mr. Recke says. “But then, I listened to it, and I went like ‘wow.’ ” He says he may even persuade Ms. Duff to write an original, two-minute composition to help with the Tooth Tunes launch. “Hilary’s into clean living,” he says. “She would like to convey to kids that, ‘Hey, I may be Hilary Duff, but I have to brush my teeth too.'”

Preliminary JupiterResearch analysis indicates that US music licensing revenues for toothbrushes will not exceed ringtones or games until at least 2007.

Finally, A Really Smart Anti-Piracy Strategy February 23, 2005

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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The Journal reports that Warner Bros – who dragged Hollywood kicking & screaming into the business of selling DVDs – is going to sell cheap DVDs in China.

This year, Warner plans to release more than 125 movies on DVD in China at below-market prices. Some will be bare-bones versions of the films that will be sold in China around the time of their U.S. theatrical release and priced at $2.65. Others, which will contain additional features such as more language selections, interviews with actors and behind-the-scenes footage will be priced at $3.38.

Gee, I wonder if that would work for CDs over here….

Obviously, the economics are different. Warners is doing no buisness in DVD sales in China now, so this is all gravy. Music CDs are still a real live business in the US. But still, we could use a little more aggression on price elasticity I suspect.

The N-thousandth iPod Post February 23, 2005

Posted by David Card in Digital Home & Personal Tech.
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Apple’s latest round of iPods gives it a deep product line-up that graduates in $50 increments from a tiny, $99 flash product through the fashionable Minis to $350 and $450 high-capacity color models. As Michael says, Apple leaves very little room for competitors to squeeze in.

Apple still has not built a technology platform lock-in. Most songs on iPods are still MP3 files. At some point, the iTunes software and store, and Apple’s codec and DRM will form such a platform. But not yet. Switching is still relatively easy.

At this point, it looks like competitors could attack from the following positions:

Price. No one’s got a $100, reasonable-capacity (2GB-4GB) model.
Video. No real demand.
Music Phone. Niche product; wouldn’t cut into dedicated MP3 player sales, but might be a handset differentiator. Many, many hurdles here.
Subscription Service Support. Again, a niche opportunity, at least initially. But probably the best opportunity.

Posting for the n-hundredth time on the iPod makes me think about the other consumer media device that should be as exciting, that is, HDTV. What’s different about HDTV, which has just about the same single-digit US household penetration rate as disk-based MP3 players? How come no one’s jazzed about HD? (Well no one except Mark Cuban.) Here’s a few things that make iPods different. The TV industry probably can’t even finesse one of them:

– One company, one coolness. You don’t see Sony crowing about MP3 players replacing Walkmen.
– New consumption mode of existing content. Carry your whole collection with you. (Buying DVDs of movies and TV shows is like this; HDTV is not.)
– Existing installed base of content. See playing MP3s above.
– Initiator is from outside traditional industry. See Sony comment above.

The Doctor Has Left the House February 21, 2005

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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A sad day for media. Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 is still one of – if not the – the best books ever written on campaign politics. Don’t forget to take your Ibogaine.

NY Times Digital Diversifies with About February 18, 2005

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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So it’s the NY Times Co. that ends up acquiring About. Although About would have made a more “natural” fit with a company like Yahoo, AOL or even Google, the audience – if not content – overlap would have been high.

For NY Times Digital, this deal is about diversification, not synergy. NY Times Digital gets a lot more niche and low-grade ad inventory to sell for click-through rates via contextual targeting. So it gets better access to a fast-growing sub sector of online advertising. Don’t be fooled, though, contextual is a tiny part of the display ad market – it’s not in the search category that you’ll see in all the bullish quotes.

Although the Times online has done very well indeed with Surround Sessions, About’s traffic doesn’t lend itself to that model.

And You Thought Microsoft Was Going to Sit Out the Browser Wars…. February 15, 2005

Posted by David Card in Digital Home & Personal Tech.
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So Mister Softee (search on IE 7) is back in the browser business. But as my colleague Joe Wilcox points out, contrary to some reports, there is no operating system/browser divorce.

Make no mistake though, this move ain’t about Firefox. Well not much. Rather, it’s an attempted preemptive strike at Google and, maybe, Yahoo. (And AOL, of course.) It’s about sticky apps that blend in desktop search and link to preferred search engines. Personally, I’m not sold on integrating desktop search with Web search for consumers, but that doesn’t matter. The competitors all are.

Whether it’s a beta or not, IE 7 is about Microsoft getting a new browser into consumer hands – XP users anyway – at least a year before the first one starts using Longhorn. Finally, Microsoft has acknowledged it can’t afford to have a sub-par application in users’ faces every day because its dev cycle is in lockstep with that of an OS.

If Microsoft screws up, and the IE 7 “beta” for users this summer is a 200MB OS-like SP download, then either I’m wrong or, well, they screwed up. (I make no claim to analyze what this means vis a vis browsers as desktop application platforms, esp for enterprise apps.)

I’m starting the office pool on the Google browser release date now.

MLB Wants to Buy Tickets.com February 15, 2005

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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Major League Baseball continues to be the most aggressive of the sports leagues in terms of online businesses. It intends to spend over $60M to acquire Tickets.com. Most of MLB.com’s revenues are from ticketing, rather than paid content, advertising, or sales of merchandise. The Journal notes that 75% of Tickets.com’s sales are not baseball…

Not Quite Worthy of a Darwin February 14, 2005

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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This, the latest in the series of blogger-gets-fired stories, isn’t quite Darwin Award-worthy. But it’s close. Whotta maroon.

Online Grammys Coverage February 14, 2005

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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AOL Music, Yahoo Music, and MSN Music each did a fairly good job of tying into last night’s Grammy awards broadcast. Each promoted a Grammys section on the front page of the main portal and each had sponsored content (AOL/Amex, Yahoo/Chevy, MSN/Heineken). AOL Music is available outside of the AOL walled garden, but I’m not sure how anybody would find it.

MSN Music featured the Heineken Lounge, and Heineken was all over the telecast. AOL Music was the only one with (a few) on-demand songs to stream, but Yahoo Music seemed to have about 80-90% of the nominations covered via videos. Both AOL and Yahoo promoted some exclusive videos. MSN Music’s poll had about 67,000 votes by 8:45PM (44K at 12:30 in the afternoon). MSN and AOL have well-promoted follow-up pages today. Yahoo buries its Grammys section in music news.

Although JupiterResearch consumer surveys show that 48% of online adults watch TV while they’re online at least once a month (57% of those ages 18-24), nobody had any twin-screen sync’d TV/online programming that I could see.

MTV did a pretty good job too. CBS, which hosted the event, had a sneak peek (ie, the same 30-second spot that ran on TV) and a 4 minute video of highlights from last year. But otherwise, the CBS site was light.

There were lots of iPod ads during the broadcast, and at least one on-screen iTunes call-out. The iTunes store is selling a Grammy hit compilation, but had only one page of info to complement it.